Counties to link with statewide radio system
Sept. 22, 2003
Will make area compatible with state wireless network
A $600,000 upgrade of Clinton County, N.Y.’s Enhanced-911 dispatch and radio communications systems is under way.
It’s a step the county is taking to be more compatible with the planned Statewide Wireless System, expected in a few years.
All the counties in the North Country hope to someday link into the system, a radio-communications network for all state agencies: State Police, Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation and others. Most of those agencies are already on VHF high-band frequencies.
Funding for new equipment
The money for Clinton County’s new radio consoles and channels came from federal and state grants, Ice Storm money and 911 telephone-line surcharges.
Emergency Services Director James King expects Clinton County’s radio system to be fully interoperable with the new Statewide Wireless System.
Clinton County already operates on 800 MHz analog frequencies for countywide services. Although the state system will use 700 and 800 MHz digital frequencies, the two should be able to talk to each other, King said.
“Without analog, we’d have to double the number of (radio) towers,” King said.
“They’re going to come into our county with interoperability. I’m not going to ask my end-users to change over to digital. Our system works extremely well. Why put a digital system in?”
Franklin county reach
Meanwhile, Franklin County is staying with its low-band VHF frequencies but will improve its radio system this year, Emergency Services Deputy Director Ricky Provost said.
“We’re going to have to purchase a 911 system, but as for our radios, we’re doing an upgrade this year,” he said.
“We have areas in Saranac Lake and Chateaugay Lake we can’t reach. It will give us coverage in those areas.”
He said the county probably could not afford to switch to an 800 MHz or VHF high-band system.
“It would be an extremely expensive undertaking,” Provost said, with new radios required for all fire departments, ambulance services and county departments.
The Statewide Wireless System will include a VHF high-band overlay for interoperability with other radio systems, but that won’t include low-band systems such as Franklin County’s.
Looking to link
The state system is still several years off; proposals for it aren’t even due until January. “The system is very detailed and very complicated,” King said.
The communications consoles can cross-patch different channels, so a State Police transmission could be patched into a fire channel if need be, he said.
“I don’t think we’ll have much of a problem,” King said.
The state will do all it can to ensure its new system will talk with local systems, Statewide Wireless Project Director Hanford Thomas said.
The Wireless System won’t actually buy equipment for counties, but it will put in communications towers they can use, Thomas said.
“We want to do whatever we can to help them,” he said.
Pilot participation sought
Essex County has asked to be included as a pilot county, because the first part of the project will be built 18 months after the low bids are accepted.
“I think that as a pilot project we’d rather see a regional approach than a county approach,” Thomas said.
“That would have more of a chance of succeeding.”
Essex County Emergency Services Director Raymond Thatcher said a regional project would be fine, and his counterparts agreed.
“I’d be more than happy to enter a regional concept,” King said.
He did caution that Essex County has some characteristics not shared by Clinton or Franklin counties.
“The topography of Essex County is very unique; they have some altitude problems,” King said.
Essex County is the most mountainous of the three, with numerous Adirondack High Peaks more than 4,000 feet high.
Lohr McKinstry can be reached by email: [email protected]
Copyright 2002, Plattsburgh Publishing Co., Plattsburgh, NY, Division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., Campbell Hall, NY. All rights reserved. Republished with permission from the publisher.